With social networks becoming an important driver of both sales and site traffic these days, community management and the role of a community manager are two hot topics. I was able to participate on a panel at the Community Manager UNconference last month where we discussed the role of a community manager and the future of the job. While everyone seemed to have a different take on the role of a community manager, all of us were in agreement that community managers aren’t going anywhere.
A Community of Managers
Each community manager on the panel represented a unique online community with a much different community management experience than mine. Many of the panelists are visibly connected to the brand and the community they manage, which is common for in-house community managers. Their name and personality become the public facing voice of the brand they represent.
In House Community Managers
One of the panelists, Sarah, manages Eventbrite Chicago’s Twitter handle is “Eventbrite’s Chicago Event Evangelist.” Her face and name are displayed on the Twitter profile and she embodies the personality and voice of Eventbrite on Twitter.
The Agency Perspective
While each panelist spoke on behalf of one specific brand or community, I was able to offer the perspective of an agency community manager who oversees and interacts with a few vastly different communities (from turkeys to toilet cleaners!). Because I manage communities for several clients at once, I need to constantly keep in mind the brand voice and the audience as I engage and develop content. This is common practice for all community managers, but I think becomes more challenging when you have multiple communities and brand personalities to represent.
All community managers must have their finger on the pulse of the community in order to build meaningful connections with consumers online. If the community manager isn’t the public face of the brand online, it is crucial that they perfect the brand voice and personality in all communication. As an agency community manager, I believe voice and engagement style are some of the most important factors in shaping a cohesive brand personality online.
A successful community manager is able to personalize a brand, harness advocates and shift perceptions and sentiment. While each of our community manager roles is diverse, the unifying factor between all of the panelists is a shared passion for what we do.
Take the Community Offline
The day following the panel, I attended the Community Manager UNconference, which was a fantastic event and unlike any I’d ever experienced before. An UNconference is a participant-driven meeting where anyone can deliver a session and attendees are strongly encouraged to join the discussion. I liked the set up of this type of conference because you get out of it what you put in – much like an online community.
The idea of taking the online community, offline is a notion often overlooked because many companies are focused on growing their social presence online. Fans and consumers follow a brand because they like it, but most want to follow a brand to connect in a more exclusive and personal way. Community members are looking for that behind-the-scenes connection with a brand, so give them the opportunity to connect offline. There is nothing more personal than face to face engagement, and for that reason, the Community Manager UNconference was the perfect setting for all types and levels of community managers to get together and share insights offline.
Community Managers and Social Business
I learned a lot about community management through the various sessions, and the conference reinforced my appreciation for the role of a community manager in the socialization of business. Whether it’s engaging with fans, offering customer support, driving traffic and sales, and reporting insights and feedback from the community to the brand, the role of a community manager is a versatile one that will only grow as social business evolves.
Like I said earlier – community managers aren’t going anywhere! As long as there is a community that’s interacting, there’s a need for a community manager. If you’re interested in attending the next Community Manager UNconference, it will be held in Toronto, Canada on June 29, 2012.
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